Construction continues at the new Midfield Terminal at Detroit's Metropolitan Wayne County Airport.


ROMULUS, Mich. - More than $1 billion is being spent to construct the new Midfield Terminal at Detroit's Metropolitan Wayne County Airport. When construction is completed by the end of next year, the 2 million-sq.-ft. structure will include two concourses with capacity for up to 74 jet aircraft and 25 commuter planes, an underground passenger tunnel, an 11,000-space parking garage (one of the largest in the world), an energy plant, 180 acres of apron and taxiways, a three level road system and various support facilities.

Metro Airport, as it is popularly called, started in 1929 as Wayne County Airport when Thompson Aeronautical Corp, a predecessor of American Airlines, began passenger service from the site. It now ranks as the eighth busiest airport in North America and the 14th busiest in the world. More than 30 million passengers pass through its gates each year.

However, Metro has often ranked near the bottom in terms of passenger service and when it comes to issues such as luggage handling and the ability to handle the growing number of passengers which continue to flow through its terminals. The Midfield Terminal project is designed to bring Metro into the 21st century as a state-of-the-art transportation center.

Dozens of contractors' trailers sit where Boeings will eventually park and taxi. For most of the companies working here, it is the largest project they have ever undertaken. The building architect is SHG Inc. and the general contractor is Huber, Hunt and Nichols.

Installing the ductwork for the terminal's massive climate control system is Applegate Inc. of Jackson, Mich. By the time Applegate is done, about 3 million pounds of sheet metal will have been laid throughout the mile-long structure. Applegate is working with CPG TriVenture, Inc., mechanical contractors for the project.

A lotta duct

Applegate receives up to three semi-trucks of duct a day. Much of the ductwork comes from fabricators Metro Duct in nearby Taylor, Mich. and Applegate's own facility in Ann Arbor, Mich. Metro Duct and Applegate supply 115,000 ft. of rectangular ductwork which will wind through the mile-long terminal. The project also requires 8,000 ft. of oval double wall and 20,000 ft of round double wall, supplied by Columbia, Mo.-based Semco, Inc. The size of the ductwork is up to 80/38 OD oval dual wall.

To reduce the number of field joints and make handling easier, Semco is custom fabricating much of the duct in sections. The duct is shipped to the job site with AccuFlange connectors installed, reducing installation time by up to 50%.

A malicious May storm damaged one of the company's trucks and a couple of its trailers, said Tim Frees, project manager for Applegate. But otherwise, the work has gone smoothly. "Things are under fairly good control," he said. Applegate employs about 300 people, but the number of those working on site varies. In June, it was around 60.

"There's no question it's a high profile job for the company," said Frees, who has worked for Applegate for 19 years. "It's a major statement to be able to work on a job of this magnitude."

He admitted that he never imagined that the company he started working for in 1981 would be awarded such a major project. And while he added that he had some doubts beforehand about taking on the work, he hasn't regretted it since. "I am really glad that we did take this job ourselves (and) not as a joint venture," he said. "It's exciting to watch it happen."

The project requires Applegate's detailers to produce more than 260 1/4-in. scale hvac drawings, according to James Pratt, the company's lead detailer. The detailers use more than 1,000 electronic files each day to create the drawings, making paper drawings virtually unnecessary. Applegate's computers are linked with the plumbing and piping detailers of CPG TriVenture to make coordination easier. Using Intelicad (a Tulsa, Okla.-based AutoCAD sheet metal drafting system), the fabrication shops in Taylor and Ann Arbor are able to download information directly, making the whole process more efficient.

The Midfield project is a joint venture with Wayne County, which owns the airport, and developer Northwest Airlines, which uses Metro as one of its hubs. More than half of all flights originating from Metro are on Northwest.

According to the county, when completed, the terminal will also include 104 ticketing positions, 11 domestic luggage claim carousels, a Federal Inspection Service facility made to handle 3,200 passengers an hour, 42 shops and restaurants, and more than 2,200 ft of moving walkways.